Hungarian Grand Prix 1999 – Race
he surprise stars of the Friday practice sessions were Williams and Alex Zanardi in particular. By the end of the second session the Italian had set the 5th quickest time with Schumacher just a couple of places behind. It therefore was a great surprise to find the Williams pair so far down the order after Saturday qualifying. 15th and 16th positions for Zanardi and Schumacher seemed a poor reward after Friday. So what happened? Questions should be asked at Grove – were the other teams sandbagging? Whatever the reason neither driver was going to set the world alight from those positions.
The Hungaroring has only one passing place, at the end of the start/finish straight into the first corner, unfortunately not many were making much use of it and the top six of Hakkinen, Irvine, Fishichella, Frentzen, Coulthard and Hill until the first pit stops. The Williams pairing remained in their starting positions.
The first retiree of the race came on lap 10. A lap earlier the FW21 of Alex Zanardi was seen sailing over the gravel trap but recovered and rejoined the race only to make his way into the pits to retire. The reason for retirement was stated as problems with the differential however whether this damage was as a result of the trip over the gravel trap was not made clear…
Ralf Schumacher continued to fly the flag for Williams but it must be very disheartening to be fighting for 15th position. Lap 36 brought with it the humiliation of being lapped by the leader. From this point onwards the German did make up some places but this was entirely due to the retirement of others and by the final lap he had worked his way up to 9th position.
This was a poor race even by Williams recent low standards. More worrying still was the fact that Zanardi and Schumacher were 3rd & 4th quickest though the speed trap on Saturday. If raw speed is not the problem then the finger must point at the chassis and that problem will remain no matter what BMW engine is in the back of the FW22. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for 2000.